FRONTIERADO IS COMING UP ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 4th!
The Frontierado Holiday is about the myth of the Old West, not the grinding reality. The Danites – the gunslinging Knights of the Mormon faith – are an underutilized and underappreciated element of Old West fiction.
The opportunities for action presented to a Danite could start as early as the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri. After that there’s the Illinois Mormon War in the 1840s which ended in the Siege of Nauvoo.
Following that conflict the Mormon Exodus to the West began, with “Deseret” (later called Utah) as the ultimate destination. Danites – like Christian Knights of long ago protecting Pilgrims headed for their “Holy Land” – safeguarded Mormon travelers from attacks by hooded anti-Mormon gangs, from armed outlaws and from various Native American tribes along the way.
In Deseret itself there were conflicts with Mexican raiders after the end of America’s war with Mexico (1846-1848). Danites would also be called upon to battle various Native American tribes in Deseret, in the role of oppressors rather than oppressed much of the time.
They would also fight Navajo armies to stop them from seizing Paiute Indians as slaves. (The anti-slavery aspect of Mormonism is often overlooked.) Plus the Danites faced the task of driving off armed bands of prospectors wanting the gold and other precious metals of the area.
There was also the Utah War with the Mormons fighting the United States Army from 1857-1858. On top of that add rumored armed conflicts among competing factions of Mormon leaders with the Danites caught in the middle like Mafia gunmen serving their respective “Dons” as it were.
NOTE: This blog post is interested only in the neglected potential of Danites as mythic heroes and/or villains in western sagas. I know that in real life the Mormon Church downplays or distances themselves from the Danites because of the violence often associated with them. Continue reading